Foy Group walks away from plastics-to-fuel plant in Hume
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Foy Group walks away from plastics-to-fuel plant in Hume

The company formerly known as the Foy Group appears to have walked away from its plans to build a plastics-to-fuel plant in the ACT, selling its block in Hume the day after it finally settled.

Integrated Energy Solutions had planned to build a plant that would convert 73 tonnes of plastic into 77.5 million litres of fuel a year.

Foy Group technical director Bevan Dooley and managing director Stuart Clark at the site of the proposed pastics-to-fuel factory in Hume.

Foy Group technical director Bevan Dooley and managing director Stuart Clark at the site of the proposed pastics-to-fuel factory in Hume.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

But it twice failed to meet a territory government deadline to cough up $2.9 million for the block in Couranga Crescent, Hume, before finally settling on October 19.

The company had already paid a $155,425 deposit on the land, and was forced to pay a $98,000 penalty to the ACT government after it repeatedly missed the settlement date.

But it was unlikely the government would have approved its proposal, after an expert health panel found there were too many risks with the unproven technology.

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In an update to its company prospectus issued on November 17, the company revealed it had on-sold the block the day after settlement to seek a "more appropriate alternative" for a manufacturing plant.

The company had flagged its intention to build parts there for export to construct other plastics-to-fuel plants around the world, and eventually build a factory on-site.

"Following a strategic review of the IGES operations going forward the board decided that it was no longer in the company's best interests to maintain this site as part of the investment portfolio and construct a manufacturing facility at this location," the supplementary prospectus reads.

"The company therefore subsequently on-sold the site on 20 October 2017 and is well advanced in seeking a more appropriate alternative for its manufacturing capacity that is more aligned with its international projects."

In response to a question on notice, suburban development minister Yvette Berry revealed the company paid $3,362,918.60 to secure the lease, which included $97,938.60 in penalties and $1100 in legal fees.

The company said it on-sold the block for $3,108,500 "plus GST being the same price IGES paid the ACT Land Development Agency for the site in 2017".

The company said it was unable to recover the $158,223 in stamp duty. No reference to the $98,000 penalty was made in the market prospectus.

Asked if the government had received any response to the health panel's report from the company, Ms Berry indicated it had not.

She also said no restrictions had been placed on the block in the wake of the report, and that she was not aware of the company having any financial interest in any block in the ACT.

Integrated Energy Solutions director David McIntosh refused to speak to The Canberra Times citing dissatisfaction with previous coverage, but documents provided to the market reveal the company has an increasingly international focus.

Its plant in the Netherlands is expected to be operational later this year, as is its plant in Camden, Indiana, which is a joint venture with US resource recovery company GEP Fuel & Energy.

The Indiana plant will process 1500 tonnes a day of end-of-life waste plastics, and produce 500 million tonnes of fuel a year.

The company said it had "activity" going on in UK cities Deeside, Grimsby, Northampton, Fleetwood, Hull, Manchester, Bristol and Middlesbrough.

It is unclear if UK Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the country by 2042 will compromise this activity.

The company also flagged plans to build a global corporate office in Singapore.

Information provided to shareholders suggested plastic feedstock was a key reason for the location - "with greater density of population comes greater plastic supplies," the company said.

Proximity to planned plastic-to-fuel factories was another consideration.

The company will conduct research and development at its Singapore headquarters, and revealed a partnership with the National University of Singapore.

It said it would invest $5 million over three years in research in new technology.

Canberra was not mentioned in its priorities for the year going forward, but images of the plans for the Hume block appeared in a shareholder presentation given by the company's managing director in November.

The ACT project also remained on the company's website as of Sunday.

Plans for the plant were first made public in 2016.

The company claimed technology, invented by technical director Bevan Dooley, addressed problems that stopped others from commercialising plastics-to-fuel technology.

That included removing ash, dealing with hydrocarbon contaminants, and using waste gas for heating to burn off gas at a high enough temperature to destroy noxious compounds.

But from the beginning, residents in neighbouring Macarthur and Gilmore were concerned about noise and emissions from the factory.

An expert health panel was convened in March last year to look at the risks to the health of nearby residents.

The panel found there was not enough evidence to prove the facility could be safe, as it was new technology.

Environment Minister Mick Gentleman said while the next step was up to Foy, the planning directorate "would be extremely unlikely to approve a development application ... in view of the findings".

At the time, Foy chairman Paul Dickson said the company would have a plant in Britain up and running within a year that would provide the requested data.

The company also commissioned a study by University of Sydney chemical engineers to counter concerns about emissions and explosion risk.

Meanwhile Foy missed the settlement date for the block of land it bought by tender from the Land Development Agency on June 26.

The company merged with Integrated Green Energy Solutions, the company that owned the technology the company planned to use in the plant, in September.

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On September 7, it told the market the ACT government had given it until 2.30pm on September 7 to pay the $2.9 million it owed on the block of land. To raise the money, it issued more shares.

Its latest supplementary prospectus said the company had raised about $6.5 million.

Katie Burgess

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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